“I don’t call myself a chef because I don’t have any formal training,” says Maia du Plessis, who offers supper club and wine-tasting experiences from her space in Woodstock, Cape Town.
“It wasn’t really a plan to go into catering, but I was raised by a Greek mother, so I have certainly grown up surrounded and inspired by food. We grew up eating dishes ladled with garlic and ate food my friends had never heard of, which was certainly unusual for ’70s SA,” laughs Du Plessis.
Du Plessis’ love of fashion found her “falling into fashion styling and then food styling”, and she spent her early working years assisting food stylist Mari Williams.
“I was exposed to many styles of food, but I also learnt tricks like how to build a rig to get a shot of milk pouring into cereal and how to use mashed potato instead of ice cream because it doesn’t melt,” she recalls.
After a move to New York in the ’90s, Maia found herself living with expats from SA who all had an interest in food, and weekends were spent cooking and discovering new tastes.
Having emerged from the chaotic early years of raising twins, Du Plessis’ love of food led her into menu development and consulting. But when her husband Otto du Plessis, a sculptor and foundry man, bought the downtown studio in 2014, her dream of creating a space for people to experience food was born.
As it turns out, the studio, which is now home to her catering company Provisions, is a true family affair. Otto’s studio flanks her kitchen and is a hive of creativity. Her brother-in-law, artist Jop Kunneke, works from another space, as do artists Charles Haupt, Stanislaw Trzebinski and a movable feast of others.
“They know not to steal anything from my fridge, but they’re constantly swiping my mixing jars and tools,” she laughs. Her 10-year-olds, Bay and Riley, are frequent visitors after school, where they potter around with their father next door.
A petite, esoteric beauty, it’s clear that Du Plessis’ kitchen is the heart of this surprising collection of artists and people. While she nourishes them (she does admit to cooking them lunch regularly), they feed her love of art with exposure to their creations, which are hung on the walls of her kitchen and dining area.
“I’ve always loved the idea of creating a space where people can enjoy food and experience art in a space that is not a gallery,” says Du Plessis.
“I host people for lunches, dinners, brainstorming sessions, or whatever they need, and I want them to know that each time they return they will see something new. So the art is always changing and the space is always evolving.”
Of the décor, Du Plessis says the space differs from her personal style, “which tends to be more cluttered”.
The furniture is also sourced from local designers, such as Gregor Jenkin, renowned for his contemporary pieces that give a nod to SA’s European and Boer heritages. The aura is clean and comfortable, with a palette of cool greys and toned-down white shades, with touches such as a lace throw on the window adding Du Plessis’ undeniable feminine edge.